In Abu Dhabi, which constantly welcomes newcomers and where the landscape changes frequently, locating a specific place can be tricky. That is because the current address system is based on an abstract and complex method of naming, numbering and codifying streets and buildings that is often impossible to follow.
As a result, most Abu Dhabi residents or visitors have to rely on landmarks, such as a hotel, restaurant or shopping mall.
Such a system might have been suited to the past when the city was smaller, but it creates a worrisome predicament for today's urban services. With inadequate references, how do you find your way around the ever-expanding city? How do you quickly despatch emergency services such as the fire brigade, ambulances and law-enforcement officials? How do you locate the points where electricity, water and telephone systems have broken down?
A solution is now at hand. As The National reports today, the Executive Committee at the Abu Dhabi Executive Council has given the green light to a project to number buildings and install prominent signposts on the pavements featuring street names, both in Arabic and English.
The implementation of the initiative, which may begin as early as this month, will see a drastic shortening of street names, while repetition of street names will be a thing of the past. Furthermore, an address will feature the number of a building, followed by the street name, city and postcode.
As well as benefiting the emergency services, the move will create vast opportunities for the private sector. Online shopping - which has exploded in the West in the past decade - has a similar potential here. Electronics, DVDs, toys, even clothes could all be purchased online and delivered to your door. Grocery shopping could be radically different.
Once deliveries no longer rely on landmarks, and often a conversation with the recipient, the potential for businesses to provide niche products straight to the consumer becomes possible.
The new address system marks a real step forward in the modernisation of the UAE - and a vast opportunity for the private sector to exploit.